Dr. Crowe is a viral immunologist and board-certified pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A handful of vaccine candidates and monoclonal antibodies that he has developed in his academic lab are in clinical trials or late preclinical development with commercial partners.
At the upcoming virtual event, Therapeutic Pipeline for COVID-19, Dr. Crowe will discuss the antibody and B-cell response of humans with prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. By isolating thousands of monoclonal antibodies, his team has identified clones with diverse reactivities and ultrapotent neutralization activity. The lead antibodies selected conferred complete protection in a nonhuman primate model of infection.
Dr. Emily Le, producer of the event, caught up with Dr. Crowe to learn more about his work on human antibody discovery platforms and how he straddles the worlds of academia and a biotech startup.
EL: What is your background and what inspired you to pursue healthcare and science?
JC: I am a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, but I have dedicated my career to viral immunology research pertinent to vaccines and antibodies. I committed my professional career to developing solutions for infectious diseases after some very important experiences in Africa, South America and the Pacific during my medical training.
EL: As a physician but also an academic, how do you perceive the development of your therapeutic relative to industry in terms of speed and efficiency?
JC: Our academic group has developed one of the fastest human antibody discovery platforms ever, and we have often isolated the most potent antibodies in the field. The limitation is that we don’t manufacture our own antibodies for clinical trials, so, when we are done with discovery there is a transition or transfer to industry that can take time.
EL: What are the pros and cons of developing a drug for COVID-19 from an academic lab?
JC: The pros are that we are very experienced in fundamental immunology, and we are nimble in terms of innovating. The con is that we ultimately have to transfer our leads to others to continue development.
EL: Have you engaged with industry to facilitate progress, if necessary?
JC: Yes, I have founded a startup, IDBiologics, which is a great partner for development, and we have licensed antibodies to other industry partners who have taken some of our antibodies into clinic or emergency use, such as AstraZeneca (SARS-CoV-2), Moderna (chikungunya) and Mapp Bio (Marburg).
EL: What is your vision for the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center?
JC: We have launched an ambitious project called AHEAD100 to make best-in-class human monoclonal antibodies for the 100 infections most likely to cause epidemics, and we are well on our way to bringing many of these to fruition by partnering with commercial entities to get the leads tested in Phase I trials or beyond.
EL: With your technology and approach for isolating thousands of COVID-19-specific antibodies, are you in favor of an antibody cocktail that can bind non-overlapping epitopes and provide, perhaps, more effective neutralization of COVID-19 as opposed to a single antibody??
JC: Either strategy could work, in my opinion.
EL: As a physician, will you organize and orchestrate clinical trials? Are any on the horizon?
JC: Our laboratory advises in this area, but we do not conduct clinical trials. For SARS-CoV-2, IDBiologics, AstraZeneca and the U.S. JPEO with Ology are conducting trials using our antibodies.
EL: What do you want the Bioinsider attendees to gain from your talk?
JC: An appreciation that the era for antibody interventions to prevent or treat infectious diseases is finally upon us.
If you would like to hear Dr. James Crowe live at the Therapeutic Pipeline for COVID-19 Virtual Meeting, register today with a 30% Discount Promo Code: interview30 (Apply before checkout).